In addition to new schoolmates, teachers and subjects, students at Lausanne Collegiate School will need to get used to a new face roaming the halls and keeping order this school year, the 87th in its history.
Stuart Dunster has joined the staff as head of the upper school.
Dunster was educated at Brunel University in west London, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sports studies and geography. After a career start in sales, he felt a stronger calling, through the coaching of rugby and soccer that he was already involved with, to become an educator. At the University of Leicester, he received a Master of Educational Leadership, and began his journey in teaching at The Chalfont’s Community College in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.
Dunster was raised with a love for travel that has taken him across continents and through many time zones.
“Every summer I’d always take off to a new part of the world and travel and learn new things,” he said.
It was this passion that was the impetus for him to cross the pond in search of work.
“I jumped at the chance to go to Boston,” he said. “I’d been there before, and it was a great, diverse city, a very international city.”
He took a job as athletics director for the British School of Boston, an international school with United Kingdom-trained instructors, in 2006. He soon rose through the ranks and by 2010 was named as head of high school.
When a job in Memphis showed up on his radar, he wasn’t sure just what to expect, yet was pleasantly surprised.
“I guess when you think of Memphis and the South, you don’t expect to find such an international school,” he said.
The greatest draw to Lausanne for Dunster was the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, an intensive, two-year college preparatory curriculum for juniors and seniors. He appreciates the open-endedness of the IB questioning, feeling it’s a broader path than the more common Advanced Placement courses that can rely more heavily on multiple-choice testing.
“In IB, it works over a two-year program, and it culminates at the end with a much rounder finished product of a student,” he said.
He visited Lausanne and, as he got to know the school and its mission, he said, “I realized how much a global-mindedness and internationalism meant to the school. The student/staff relationships were so positive. It was just a perfect fit for me.”
Making it all that much more perfect was the fact that his wife, Dori, is from Missouri, and the two have a 5-month-old daughter, Lainey, so they’re happy to be closer to family.
"Following an intensive and exhaustive national and international search I am very pleased that we were able to secure our top candidate,” Lausanne headmaster Stuart McCathie said in a statement. “Mr. Dunster is thoughtful, reflective and knowledgeable of IB. He has good experience as an upper school head and is a consensus builder with a student-centered philosophy that is a clear match for Lausanne as a process school."
In addition to the culture – and the heat – Dunster will be overseeing a student body more than twice the size as that in Boston. The British School has about 400 students, while Lausanne’s K-12 population is closer to 900. As far as any changes to be made or a personal stamp to be put on the way things are done, Dunster prefers a wait-and-see approach, and comes to town with his own philosophy, which he finds already instilled in the environment.
“It’s the student that makes any school for me,” he said. “The students are just very focused, dedicated. They (Lausanne) believe in sort of every student is individual and every student is different, and I just love the way the school supports each student separately.”
The Brit-turned-Yank has explored his new hometown and found a treasure in the food, especially a favorite with the barbecue at the Germantown Commissary. The trans-Atlantic educator never stops learning, and has learned something invaluable about Southern hospitality.
“The people are friendly, the South is, compared to Boston,” he said. “Just in general, you walk by and they say hello and they chat with you. You certainly don’t get that the same in Boston.”